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Shore fishing in Iceland

Written by Bruce Dickinson 


This was my third trip to Iceland is as many years, but whereas I had previously indulged myself in an orgy of 24 hour a day  fishing for trout, sea trout, salmon and cod, this venture was a bit different, as I was in charge of my 6 year old son Leo. Although I hoped to find a few fish I was knew I would have to stick to marks that were safe and sheltered. The object was also to refine my ‘long weekend away fishing’ routine, to see how cheaply I could get to Iceland and back. Living near Gatwick it makes sense to consider fishing in Iceland as opposed to a weekend in the UK as its not that much more expensive and there are a stack more fish.

So this is how it panned out: around 120 quid for the return airfare, 50 euros a night hotel (with freezer for bait),  hire car  £150 (optional as good marks are available within walking distance from hotel) , so all in £350 or so roughly speaking for four days with three full days fishing. The main target there is cod and wolfish if you fancy that. The good news is that frozen fish bait seems to work as well as anything. I took bluey and mackerel.

We arrived at around 7pm, and already found  almost 24 hour daylight out there.  The sun was bright and the day clear, but a naughty N.E wind on our backs reminded us we were definitely in arctic conditions.  The airport is situated around 50k outside of Reykjavik, in the village of Keflavik and we stayed there in the Hotel Keflavik. A medium sixed family owned hotel, the guys there were happy to store my bait and let me get access to the freezer 24 hours a day. Here’s the link

With son Leo being as gung ho as ever to go fishing we checked in and walked the 2 mins to the pier and had the whole place to ourselves.  You know how it is when taking a small child fishing; you just need them to find a few fish to keep the interest up.  Iceland is pretty easy in this respect, just find a bit of water depth and there will be millions of massive dabs, find a bit of tide and kelp and there will be the cod and coalfish.

A gung ho Leo

With a few seconds of Leo’s mackerel bait hitting the seabed he had a bite and an endless succession of dabs to 2lb came one after the other. The state of the tide was irrelevant, and you could cast anywhere and get a fish a cast. Notably there were the highest concentration by the pier structure under our feet.  We used 4/0 hooks which gives you an indication of the average size.

After a few fish we tried Isomes, Ecogearaqua ‘milfle’ 3 inch lures and Berkley Gulp lobworms. All worked a treat fished static , but the slightest movement resulted in an instant aggressive take. Up to 6 feet from the sea bed. You can see how long it takes to get a bite here in this clip of Leo catching a 1lb 10 oz fish that we thought remarkable at the time. 

It wasn't anything at all special as it turned out! We caught countless flatties on fly, float, spinner and feathers (mostly hooked in the mouth, with inevitable foul hookings too given the concentration of fish).  

Flatties a plenty

The next day we tried the end of the pier and a knuckle on the beginning of the pier facing open sea and a deep hole we named ‘cod corner’. Encouraged by the sight of a local with a 4lb codling caught on a tin mackerel spinner we started fishing and soon found numbers of coalfish on spinners.

 I couldn't really fish myself as it was a full time job making sure the child did not plop in the sea, so excited was he by the action.  A big frustration as I knew there were plenty of cod there to be had.  Another local caught a 7lb fish on a child’s telescopic rod using nuts and bolts for weights and a bit of dab on some feathers – proper primitive fishing. I managed a codling on squid and so it continued for our trip.

The wind made looking at other marks impractical, but there were numerous piers in both directions. More interesting were the cliff marks where a gentle lob would see you in 40 foot of kelpy magic. Even in a big swell the water remains gin clear, so bait fishing or lure fishing are both viable for cod.  In Keflavik itself , not 50 years form the pier, is a broad rock platform, 30 feet above the high water mark which is known for producing numbers of big cod. You’d need a drop net to get them up.  On my last trip where I could fish the cliffs a couple of miles east of Keflavik ,I had stacks of cod and a Ling to 10lb ( a proper one- not a rockling) and watched a Minke Whale feeding a few feet away from me, with puffins wheeling overhead, with snow clad mountains all round.  The obliging mackerel where the size of small tuna, so it didn't take long to get bait once I found them.  It’s all a far cry from Shoreham Beach, much as I love it there.

When I get back to Iceland I’ll be trying small coalfish live baits as they will certainly work and keep off the ravenous hordes of mutant dab. Even a whole squid on a 6/0 Pennel with come back with two dabs on it.

Bait can be dug all over and the worm hunting is as prolific as the fishing and I’m sure you’d find crab in the rocks in July.  There is a reasonable tackle shop in the village , but knowledge of sea fishing is almost non existant in Icleand, so take your own rigs and grip leads.

Basic water craft will see you right 






Pollack on the fly

I know  good place...where the rocks are gradually exposed on the ebbing tide and it's possible to hop from rock to rock until you are able to get far enough from the shore to cast a fly into water beween twelve and twenty feet deep even at low tide. There's location in particular where there are two jagged fingers of barnacle encrusted rock that rise up steeply from the crystal clear water and the fronds of kelp growing over the submerged reef.Between these two outcrops lies a bay where pollack heard together shoals of bait fish and they set about them with great ferocity as dusk begins to fall. This, of course, is a great time to be casting a fly or using a light spinning rod.

In other places within this cove they lie in ambush on the down tide edge of the rocks waiting to pick off the small fish as they are swept along with the tide. Pollack will very often sweep upwards through a shoal of bait fish, taking as many as possible before crash diving back to the bottom.

If a fly or lure is fished too high in the water they will totally ignore it so you have to be prepared to risk losing tackle by fishing as close to the kelp as possible. But as the light fades they move closer to the surface and this presents the best opportunity for some exciting action.

When a pollack hits your fly it will dive for the bottom at speed

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